Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Poached Pears "Williams Christ"

Poached Pear in Red Wine-Fruit Brandy Brew
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

This is the dessert for a cold winter day. The pears are poached in red wine and pear brandy (Williams Christ). Black tea and spices complement this dessert.

Poached Pears "Williams Christ"
(for 8 small pears)
8 smaller pears
200mL red wine
200mL orange juice
100mL pear brandy (Williams Christ brandy)
150g honey
100g sugar
black tea bags to make 500mL tea
1 star anise
3 cloves
10 black pepper corns
juice of 1 lemon
orange peel of 1 orange (cut into thin stripes)
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Peel the pears but leave a bit of peel around the stem. Cut out the blossom and cut off a little of the bottom so that the pear will stand later. Drizzle with lemon juice so that pears will not get brown.

In asuited pot combine red wine, orange juice, pear brandy, honey, sugar and spices and bring to a boil. Add tea bags and pears with the lemon juice and poach pears on low heat for 5 minutes. Then take out the tea bags. Poach pears for another 15 to 30 minutes until pears get soft. Do not let cook the pears! When pears are done take them off the wine brew.
Mix the cornstarch in a little cold water until dissolved. While stirring mix cornstarch into the brew and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes. This will thicken the brew. When brew is done add the orange peel and pears and warm them up again. Serve pears hot with some brew and garnish with orange peel.

Poached Pear in Red Wine-Fruit Brandy Brew
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spritzgebäck (German Christmas Cookies)

Spritzgebaäck (German Piped Christmas Cookies)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

If you ask me for the very typical and most traditional christmas cookies for me, I would always answer Spritzgebäck. There is no Christmas without this typical piped cookies. My gandmother made, my mother makes them every year, my mother-in-law makes them. And I make them too based on the same very basic and very easy recipe. There is some controversy though on icing - yes or no. Although I don't like them covered with too much icing, a drizzling with whole milk chocolate do enhance the delicate almond flavor for me.

Even on the last days before christmas you can make them, because the ingredients are easy to get (if you don't have them at hand) and the recipe is easy to make. It never failed the effect of being typical for christmas. With Spritzgebäck christmas time is coming.

Mandelspritzgebäck (Almond piped christmas cookies)
(always not enough cookies)

375g softened butter
250g sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1 dash salt
2 small egg yolks
a few drops of bitter almond flavor (bitter almond oil, you can omit this ingredient)
125g grounded blanched almonds
250g all purpose flour
250g cornstarch
whole milk couverture (chocolate)

Blanching almonds: pour hot water over almonds, let stay for a few minutes, pour off hot water and pour cold water over almonds. Now you can peel the almonds easily. Dry the almonds and ground them. Use fresh almonds, because their flavor is much more intense.

Preheat oven to 190°C. Line out baking trays with baking paper. Mix butter with salt, sugar and vanilla sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks and mix until foamy. Add almonds and a few drops oil of bitter almonds. Mix all purpose flour and cornstarch and add little by little to the dough. In the end the dough will get firmer. Fill in the dough into a cookie press with big star nozzle or better into a meat grinder with a big star nozzle. Press dough strings of about 2 to 3-inches. Form dough strings into rings, "S", horseshoes or any other shapes you like and place on baking tray. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies should still be light in color and not too brown. Take out of the oven and let cool on a cooling rack.
Melk whole milk couverture and drizzle over the cookies.

Note: the cookies crack easily when still hot. So let them cool for the first 5 to 10 minutes on the baking tray or move them carefully with the baking paper from the tray to the cooling rack.

Note: for this recipe you will need 2 egg yolks. What to do with the two remaining egg whites? Why don't you try Zimtsterne. This recipe requires 3 egg whites. Make some more Spritzgebäck to get even with egg yolks and egg whites.

Almond German Christmas Cookies (Mandelspritzgebäck)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

... and ...
Sunshinemom has made this recipe and wrote on a blog on Spritzgebäck. Thank you for making these cookies.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Cinnamon-Cognac Truffles
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

These Cinnamon-Cognac-Truffels (Zimt-Cognac-Trüffel) will melt in your mouth. And as fast as they are gone, so easiy they are to make. What a nice present for the Holidays. The cinammon in combination with cognac are making the main flavors. I'm making truffles during advent time, when the days are real short and the weather is cold. These truffles will brighten you day.

One point is important: use high quality ingredients, because there are just a few and they will make the truffles what they are.

Cinnamon-Cognac Truffels (Zimt-Cognac-Trüffel)
(depending on size about 30 or more)
150g softened butter
50g powder sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
3 tablespoons Cognac
200g white chocolate
200g whole milk chocolate
Dutch Cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Mix butter, sugar and cinnamon powder with a hand held mixer until very creamy. Break white and whole milk chocolate into smaller pieces and let melt using the double-boiler method. Add cognac to butter mixture and mix until blended. Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix until blended.
Put mixture into the refrigerator and let rest for at least two hours. After truffle mixture is solid again take walnut size pieces and form into balls. Cover truffles with cocoa powder. Ready.

I keep them in the fridge in an airtight container (but you can keep them also at room temeprature). At least 30 minutes before you want to serve them take them out of the freezer so that they have room temperature again.

Happy Holidays

... and ...
Sunshinemom (Blog: Tongue Ticklers) made the recipe and blogged about it here. Thank you for making these cookies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mini Christmas Muffins

Mini Christmas Muffins
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

The scent of christmas with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves combined with dried apricots, cranberries, currants and dried orange peelmake this mini muffins. Not as soft and moist as usual muffins are these treats great with a cup of coffee, tea or hot cacao on a cold winter day, for advent and during the holidays.

Mini Christmas Muffins
(depending on your mini muffin forms up to 40)
125g softened butter
100g sugar
2 eggs (medium size)
1 dash salt
200g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon grounded cardamom seeds
1 knife point grounded cloves
120g dried fruit (I use dried apricots, dried cranberries, currants and dired orange peel)

Note: I always use fresh grounded cardamom and cloves, there flavor is much more intense. Especially for cardamom you need to take care, fresh cardamom can be overhelming. Then use less than 1 teaspoon. You will need around 10-12 green cardamom pods. Open them and ground the seeds only in a mortar. Also use fresh cloves and ground them. They are much better than cloves powder. I used cinnamon very often, so the cinnamon powder isn't getting old.

Cute the dried fruit into small pieces. Set aside. Mix flour and baking powder. Set aside. Preheat oven to 200°C. Prepare your mini muffin forms. I use paper forms and bake the muffins on a baking tray. To assure that the paper forms keep their form and shape, I put three little forms into each other. After baking you can remove the outer ones easily again.

Mix the softened butter, sugar, eggs and salt until creamy and foamy. Add the spices and mix until blended. Add the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add the dried fruit, but leave some pieces to top the mufins later. Fold into the dough.

Fill the little muffin forms with the dough and put one or a few dried fruit pieces on top (I often use the dried orange peel only for this). Bake muffins until done. Baking time depends on size of your forms. For very little ones you need about 10 minutes for bigger ones a longer. Take out of oven when done and let cool on a cooling rack.

Before serving let it snow and dust them generousely with powder sugar. Enjoy!

Mini Christmas Muffins
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009